If you know me, you know that I’m one of the “voluntary childless.” If you’ve read my book, I go into some detail explaining this decision. But even that explanation is simplified; the decision is multi-faceted, and it’s certainly a decision that people have a hard time grasping. We are so conditioned to stick to a narrative — get married, have children, work, retire — that anyone who strays from that narrative gets bombarded with highly personal questions or is looked upon with suspicion. It’s not just the voluntary childless. Think of the people you know who made the decision to never marry, or who chose a bohemian/drifter lifestyle over the 40-hour work week. Admit it; they are considered a little “odd.”
I consider my decision to not have children personal rather than global. However, a new book by Alan Wiseman, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope For a Future on Earth?, reminds me that more people who choose to remain childless may hold the key to protecting our planet and sustaining it for generations upon generations.
Yes, Wiseman’s theory and my beliefs are controversial. But I’m afraid that any intelligent discussion about the very real problems our exploding global population poses for our earth gets shut down immediately because (like with any controversial issue) people get so emotional and refuse to hear the arguments.
I understand the emotion. You don’t want to mess with freedoms and choices people want to make to have children. Just as I have many reasons for not wanting children, others have many reasons for bringing forth new life. Forced anything–abortion, one-child rules, sterilization, etc.–should not be an option in this discussion, in my opinion.
I heard an interview with Wiseman on the New York Times Book Review podcast (I haven’t read the book yet–I’m in the process of downloading an audio file ). He says the same thing, that policies regarding population control are not the solution. Instead, he points to education.
Are there young women around the world who don’t realize they have an option? That cultural and religious reasons also act as population controls, but only in the sense of promoting a larger population?
According to Wiseman, we are adding 1 million people to the planet every 40 days. In his interview, he said that the planet is expected to have 13 billion people by the end of this century. He says that simply is not sustainable and actually won’t happen–something would have to give far before we reach that number.
Is it fair to ask women (and men) to consider this question: “Is this truly what you want?” To ask themselves if the accepted narrative is one that they want to follow? It’s one thing to make a choice; it’s another thing to blindly follow along because it’s the formulaic storyline.